I’ll admit, throughout my student years, the sober social was an unfamiliar concept for me. My hangovers were a thing of legend, and I was never opposed to the idea of alcohol as a social lubricant. Why then have I decided to take on Dry January?
Many people are motivated to attempt Dry January by the desire to improve their health, tighten their purse-strings, and generally recover from Christmas. For me though, raising money for charity is what has kept me away from the booze for 31 long days (and nights)!
My outrage about the level of homelessness in the UK – and the ever-growing human cost of this – is what motivated me to take on this challenge to raise money. Almost 600 homeless people died last year, and homelessness itself has seen an increase of 169% since 2010[i]. While there are many incredible charities working to help homeless people – both locally and nationally – I have chosen to support Crisis.
It hasn’t been easy though. The sheer volume of alcohol I was gifted over Christmas would be enough to hospitalise a small elephant. Add to this new year’s catch ups, belated birthdays, and (for me) graduations, and the temptation to drink is ever present. I’ve even had a couple of goes at sober clubbing, and thought I’d share my observations with you!
While I may not make sobriety a regular feature of my nights out, it has definitely made me more aware of how much drink my friends and I had been consuming, and crucially how much fun can be still be had with just a Diet Pepsi in hand!
Drinking culture and alcohol dependency are a quietly accepted feature of British culture – with almost 10% of men and 3% of women showing signs of alcohol dependence[i]. Over a quarter of those who regularly drink in the UK can be classified as ‘binge drinkers’; drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time, with the intention of getting drunk[ii].
The growing strength of the Dry January movement may, therefore, lie in its ability to do something that makes us all uncomfortable – shine a light on our relationships with alcohol. Truthfully, it *should not* be difficult to go a month without drinking, but our culture and the alcohol industry do not allow for this. We are encouraged to drink when we’re happy, drink when we’re sad, drink when we’re bored, and drink when we’re anxious[iii].
Student culture is rife with peer-pressure, drinking games and initiations, but the middle-aged parents of these students are just as likely to be knocking back more than they should, and justifying it because it’s Waitrose wine rather than nightclub Jagerbombs.
“The fact that staying sober for a month is seen as a feat of willpower, and the subject of charity campaigns such as Dry January, shows just how embedded alcohol is in our lives.[iv]”
While I started this month with the intention of raising money for an important cause, Dry January made me realise how alcohol was often being sold to me as a crutch, and an expectation rather than a choice. Its harms affect not only the drinker – physically, financially and mentally – but those around them too. Almost half of all violent crimes involve alcohol[v], and the children of alcohol dependent people have an increased likelihood of developing mental health problems and addiction issues of their own[vi].
Raising money for Crisis is what motivated me to begin Dry January, but unlearning my own drinking habits has been a powerful motivator for me to finish it.
Despite the ups and downs of this month, I know it’s been more than worth it to raise money for a cause I really care about. Through education, training and support – with housing, employment and health – Crisis make a real difference to people’s lives, all while campaigning tirelessly for national and political solutions to homelessness. Despite my complaints, I’d do it all again if it meant I could raise more money! At a time of difficulty for so many, anything you can give will make a real difference.
Support Hannah here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HannahWrightDryVeganuary